Workplace Health and Safety Queensland recently issued an alert following an incident in which glass balustrading from a high-rise balcony shattered and fell onto a ground-level building access way.
Initial enquiries indicate building rectification work was being done on the balcony at the time, and no injuries were reported.
While investigations are continuing into the exact cause of the incident, the alert said objects have the potential to fall onto or hit people at the workplace or adjoining areas if precautions are not taken.
Adjoining areas could include public footpaths, roads, or yards/spaces of properties next to a workplace.
Examples include an object free-falling from a structure, such as:
The alert said the person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) must manage the risks associated with falling objects, and risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business.
Managing work health and safety risks is an ongoing process and involves four steps, which are: identifying hazards, assessing risks, controlling risks and reviewing control measures to ensure they are effective.
When assessing the risks arising from a potential falling object hazard, things you should consider assessing include, but are not limited to:
Once the risks have been assessed the next step is to control risks. Control measures are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest and are known as the hierarchy of control.
Duty holders must work through this hierarchy to choose the controls which most effectively eliminate or, where this is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risks.
Effective control measures are often made up of a combination of controls, and common risk control measures can include, but are not limited to:
If risks remain, the alert said this must be further minimised by implementing administrative controls and implementing a safe system of work to address falling objects that can include:
Depending on the task, any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable personal protective equipment, for example: hard hats; gloves; protective footwear; eye protection; hearing protection; high visibility clothing.
Adopting and implementing higher-order controls before considering administrative or PPE controls will significantly reduce the likelihood of a similar incident occurring.